When Worlds Collide (WvWvW) #GW2
Poor PvP. I’m normally very interested in “Other System’s Rights”, of making secondary systems like crafting or guilds more engaging in MMOs, but I’m generally not a PvPer, and I think that most MMOers aren’t. It’s probably the only third class system in any MMO, feeling like the most tacked-on system out of any. But there are people who swear by it. My own first taste of MMO PvP was back in Ultima Online, where players would “vP” almost every single time you stepped outside the range of town guards. Most modern PvP is in the form of the e-sports, where players engage one another on a relatively small battlefield, and fight over some objective with a clear outcome.
But what we don’t see a lot of is cooperative, massive-scale, “no one cares about your score” PvP. Warhammer Online does it, and now Guild Wars 2 has it. I expect that this is a really tricky thing to program, because it’s sandboxy, and because if people are playing it correctly, there’s going to be a massive amount of people in a very small area, which will turn any beautiful action-game into Powerpoint Online. But I love these kinds of PvP for a few reasons, but mainly because they’re not about the ‘peen, they’re about GTD, and to do that, you need teamwork.
I spent some time in WvWvW this weekend, so here’s my bastardized version of it (seeing as how I’m not really a PvPer, I’m probably missing nuances and will be mangling terms, but whatevs).
First, WvWvW is not the Mists available to you through the Hero panel. You can get there through that UI, but you can also get there by taking an Asura gate to Lion’s Arch, and then another gate to one of four WvWvW (W3V2) lands. Three of the four lands are “borderlands”. Each borderland is majority-controlled by one of the three participating servers, with a token presence of another server on that island to allow them to spawn in and disrupt your activities. The fourth land is the Eternal Battlegrounds, a “hot zone” which is the most contested of the four as it’s at the nexus of the other three. From Lion’s Arch, you take the gate to whichever zone you want, depending on whether you want to harass (other server’s borderlands), reinforce (your borderland), or just smack people around (contested areas).
Like WAR, the W3V2 in GW2 centers on ownership and siege. Each side has a “home” camp where the participants spawn. From there, they have to hoof it to the front lines, unless their side has captured a waypoint which allows their team to travel around instantly. Capturing and activating waypoints for your side is critical to getting people from the rear up to the front as quickly as possible, and allows downed allies to re-spawn closer.
Capturing an emplacement works much like how I remember it from WAR. One team is (hopefully) inside defending, firing down from the walls or popping outside to take on the assaulting forces. Should the attackers breach the defenses and batter down the gates, they have to clean up any resistance inside, and make their way up to where the keep lord is located. Once the keep lord is downed, the assaulting team claims ownership of the structure.
Once a side caps an outpost, tower, or fort, they have a few options. First, they can shore up the defenses. Each structure has usable weaponry, usually along the parapets, for defense of the walls. There’s catapults, spike launchers, and boiling oil which can be dumped on enemies below. All of these are destroyable, so assaulting teams try to take them out as part of the breach. The second option is to repair any damages. If the team has just assaulted the structure, the doors are going to be splinters. If they want to keep the other teams out, they’ll need to repair those doors.
Here’s where things deviate from WAR’s design. Resources are important in W3V2. In each structure, there’s at least one pile of 1000 units of “resource”, and each player can pick up 10 resources from the pile at a time. These units are used to repair doors and build defenses or offensive siege weaponry (catapults, battering rams, etc). As time goes on, these resources will be depleted, and once they’re gone, the structure owners are S.O.L. unless they can get an infusion of more resources. So one of the options in W3V2 is the resource escort duty. Every now and then, NPC pack animals filled with resources are dispatched from the rear towards friendly structures. When the caravan reaches the structure, the resource stockpile is replenished (not sure if fully, or just a little). In a fully realizes W3V2 scenario, caravans are a Big Deal to all sides: the defenders of a long siege will need resources to keep their hold on their structure, and attackers will want to prevent those materials from reaching their destinations so as to “starve” the defenders. While escort duties don’t sound exciting, they can be critical to whether or not a structure can be defended, or whether it falls.
With three servers split between four massive battlefields, one might be lead to believe that life outside of smashing down someone’s door is pretty pathetic. Well, not exactly, because in addition to there being two other factions in addition to yours, there’s NPCs in the world that you might have to contend with. Mainly, you run into these guys when taking overland shortcuts to the front, drawing aggro as you would in the PvE zones, but more importantly, players will have to contend with mobs that are hanging out near the roads where the caravans of supplies are traveling. The caravans travel slowly, which means that the escorts can’t just haul ass past the aggro; they have to stick it out and fight them off. Supposedly, there are NPCs that players can assist, and who will in turn assist you, but I haven’t seen that in action.
W3V2 isn’t just about the fun of forced entry. The more structures that a server holds, the more benefits that the entire server can enjoy. These range from better prices from merchants, buffs to crafting, and better XP from mobs. Even though there may only be a handful of people busting down doors in W3V2, everyone stands to benefit from their successes, and loses out when they fail. (To see the state of W3V2 at any time, open the stats panel by pressing “N”).
As exciting as W3V2 is, its not without it’s issues. The main problem is that when the action gets actiony, strategy goes out the window, and it’s “spam time”. There is no target-of-target, so you can’t have the warband assist a specific member of your party. The TAB targeting seems to be wholely unreliable, and when there are NPC mobs mixed in with the opposing players, you may lose precious seconds tabbing around until you find the greatest threat in the crowd. Normally, AOE effects are pretty easy to understand in PvE, but when there are dozens of players laying down AOEs whose effective radii are outlined in white – both friendly and enemy – it’s difficult to know whether or not you’re standing in a healing circle, or an enemy elementalist’s fiery bitch-slap. Finally, since GW2 doesn’t use direct effect mechanics, it doesn’t seem that people feel a need to group, This has a detrimental effect because I didn’t always know where people were at on the map. Most of the time I just followed a thin stream of people from the initial spawn area and hoped that they knew where they were going. Plus, I think there’s a sense of camaraderie missing by not grouping. A warband in WAR was like a military unit, sticking together, working together, and helping each other. It seems a lot harder in W3V2 if people are just visually following one another with no association other than bloodlust.
Still, W3V2 is a hell of a lot of fun, mainly because it removes a lot of what I hate about PvP: the smack talk, the whining, the insulting, and the selfishness. I really hope that everyone who plays Guild Wars 2 sets aside time for W3V2, even if they’re not “traditional” PvP players. The more people participate, the more the system can shine, and the better the overall experience is for everyone once all the wheels are turning. Sure, everyone wants to be on the front lines where the excitement is, but even escorts or scouting can be fun when the tide of battle can hinge on seemingly inconsequential presences.